The goal of our research is to provide effective science education for all students, with a particular focus on students with learning disabilities, who often score significantly lower on standardized tests than general education students (National Center for Education Statistics, 2015).

Current Research

The ESCOLAR team has completed a 3-year study testing the effectiveness of online units to help middle school students learn science in real classrooms. Results show that students learning from the online units significantly deepened their science knowledge compared to control students.

Year 1

In Year 1, 12 sixth-grade teachers in 7 middle schools used science units with 1,103 students; 16 sixth-grade teachers and 773 students in 6 middle schools were controls. All students who learned from the ESCOLAR units made significant gains in science knowledge (15 percentage point increase), compared to control students (p = .01). Specifically:

  • General education students in the treatment group improved 20 percentage points (compared to 7 in the control group).
  • Students with learning disabilities in the treatment group improved 16 percentage points (compared to 7 in the control group).
  • English language learners in the treatment group improved 20 percentage points (compared to 7 in the control group).

 

Year 2

In Year 2, 14 seventh-grade teachers in 7 middle schools used science units with 1,049 students; 12 seventh-grade teachers and 883 students in 6 middle schools were controls. All students who learned from the ESCOLAR units made significant gains in science knowledge (15 percentage point increase), compared to control students (p = .02). Specifically:

  • General education students in the treatment group improved 15 percentage points (compared to 4 in the control group).

  • Students with learning disabilities in the treatment group improved 14 percentage points (compared to 5 in the control group).

  • English language learners in the treatment group improved 13 percentage points (compared to 3 in the control group).

Year 3

In Year 3, 10 eighth-grade teachers in 5 middle schools used science units with 799 students; 7 eighth-grade teachers and 563 students in 4 middle schools were controls. All students who learned from the ESCOLAR units made significant gains in science knowledge (20 percentage point increase), compared to control students (p< .001). Specifically:

  • General education students in the treatment group improved 20 percentage points (compared to 7 in the control group).
  • Students with learning disabilities in the treatment group improved 12 percentage points (compared to 7 in the control group).
  • English language learners in the treatment group improved 7 percentage points (compared to losing 1 in the control group).
 

Past Research

ESCOLAR units evolved from a previously funded National Science Foundation study (Project COPELLS, 2009 – 2013), in which Collaborative Online Learning (COL) units were developed and piloted with middle school students. The ESCOLAR team upgraded these units to meet new Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards, and to better address the needs of students with learning disabilities by using eText supports.

This work combines three converging lines of research: 

Publications

The following publications focus on research by project staff related to the Collaborative Online Learning units.

Terrazas-Arellanes, F. E., Gallard M., A. J., Strycker, L. A., & Walden, E. D. (2018). Impact of interactive online units on learning science among students with learning disabilities and English learners. International Journal of Science Education, 40(5), 498-518. ​ 

Terrazas-Arellanes, F., Strycker, L. A., Walden, E., & Gallard Martinez, A. J. (2017). Teaching with technology: Applications of collaborative online learning units to improve 21st century skills for all. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 36(4), 375-386. ​

Terrazas-Arellanes, F. E., Knox, C., Strycker, L. A., & Walden, E. (2017). Online learning tools for middle school science: Lessons learned from a design-based research project. International Journal of Information Communication and Technology Education, 13(1), 27-40.

Terrazas-Arellanes, F., Knox, C., & Walden, E. (2015). Pilot study on the feasibility and indicator effects of collaborative online projects on science learning for English learners. International Journal of Information and Communication Technology Education, 41(11), 31-50.

Terrazas-Arellanes, F. E. (2015). PBL science empowered by discussion forums. Edutopia. Retrieved from: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/learning-science-pbl-  discussion-forums-fatima- terrazas-arellanes.

Terrazas-Arellanes, F. E., Knox, C., Rivas, C., & Walden, E. (2014). English language learners’ online science learning: A case study. In J. E. Aitken (Ed.), Cases on communication technology for second language acquisition and cultural learning (pp. 322-355). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. ​ Walden, E.,

Terrazas-Arellanes, F., & Knox, C. (2014). Connect English learners to science with online projects. International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articledetail?articleid=26.

Terrazas-Arellanes, F. E., Knox, C., & Rivas, C. (2013). Collaborative online projects for English language learners in science. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 8(4), 953-971.

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